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DIAZ DE GAMERO, MARIA L., Escuela de GeologIa, Minas y GeofIsica, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela

ABSTRACT: The Changing Course of the Orinoco River During the Neogene

Recent studies have revealed that the varied fresh-water vertebrate fossil fauna of the Urumaco Formation in northwestern Falcon, of Late Miocene age, belongs biogeographically to the Orinoco River system. This makes possible to chart the changing course of the Orinoco River through the Neogene. The Misoa delta of Lake Maracaibo, of middle Eocene age, was probably constructed by a proto-Orinoco river that ran in a south-north direction, draining the Central Cordillera of Colombia and the Guayana Highlands. The late Eocene uplifting of western Venezuela changed the paleogeographic setting, with no evidence of delta-building during the Oligocene. In the earliest Miocene, the Falcon Basin was the site of marine shale sedimentation. In the second half of the Early Miocene, a deltaic seque ce was initiated in northwestern Falcon that continued, except for a transgressive episode, until the end of the Middle Miocene, depositing a total thickness of over 2.5 km. The Urumaco overlies this sequence and its vertebrate fauna indicates that the river that built the previous delta was the proto-Orinoco. The initial uplifting of the northern part of the Andes and the western edge of the Caribbean Mountains can thus be dated to occur at the end of the Middle Miocene, causing the distal course of the river to move to a west-east direction. The sedimentary record of the Orinoco River delta appears in the Maturin Basin of eastern Venezuela at the end of the Miocene, and is especially evident in Trinidad and the Columbus Basin during the Pliocene and Pleistocene.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90988©1993 AAPG/SVG International Congress and Exhibition, Caracas, Venezuela, March 14-17, 1993.